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State of Alabama Sued Over Marriage Equality

  |   By: John Hammontree     |   News

The Southern Poverty Law Center announced today that it will bring suit against the State of Alabama challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s prohibition against recognition of out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian Alabamians.

SPLC’s lawsuit, on behalf of Alabamian Paul Hard, will be filed in federal court. Hard married his partner, Charles David Fancher, in Massachusetts, which passed a law granting same-sex marriage rights in 2004.

Because Alabama does not legally recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states, Hard has been prohibited from receiving benefits from a wrongful death lawsuit after Fancher was killed in a 2011 car crash.

“Alabama has created two classes of marriages within its borders and deemed one of those classes – marriages between people of the same sex – to be inferior to the other,” said David C. Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “This is unconstitutional.”

Hard, a lifelong Alabamian who once was a Baptist preacher, believes he will find support in fellow Alabamians.

“Southerners are generally good-hearted people and will recognize when a person is being unfairly treated in life’s worst moments,” he said. “Most married couples take for granted that if tragedy strikes they can proceed through the worst of times without the state saying at every turn that their marriage doesn’t even exist. Marriages are significant, and my marriage is due the same respect as any other.”

Equality Alabama, a statewide organization dedicated to advancing the rights of LGBT individuals in Alabama, applauded SPLC’s decision to take up this case.

“Equality Alabama emphatically supports the freedom to marry as well as the SPLC’s lawsuit challenging Alabama’s prohibition against recognition of out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian Alabamians,” stated Ben Cooper, Equality Alabama’s Chairman. “Marriage is a fundamental freedom that should not be denied to anyone. We should protect such rights, not limit them.”

The SLPC suit follows a pattern established recently in states such as Kentucky, where a federal judge struck down the state’s “traditional or faith-based limitation” of marriage. The ruling forces the state to recognize out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples, but “does not deal with the question of whether the state can be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as that issue wasn’t brought up in the four lawsuits that triggered the ruling.”

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard responded to the lawsuit on Twitter.

Follow John on Twitter at @JohnHammontree

John Hammontree is an Account Executive for Text100 in San Francisco, CA. Though life has taken him from Memphis to Birmingham to Chicago to DC and, now, to the Bay Area, his heart has never left Alabama.